Place Matters…a post by Jim

At CrossPoint we often talk about three key components when it comes to taking a serious inventory of our lives. If you want to assess how you are doing in life think in terms of 1) People, 2) Place, and 3) Purpose.

Clearly people matter. In fact, we repeatedly say that the quality of one’s life depends on the quality of one’s relationships (with God, others, and with one’s own soul). If you want a fulfilling life, work on your relational capacity. Work on being able to be more appropriately vulnerable since trust is the currency of relationships.

And we know about purpose. Without a purpose for living people struggle with finding meaning in life. And without meaning things get rather bleak. Purpose naturally involves what we feel God has called us to do. It involves our vocation to a great extent. Hopefully, you feel a sense of purpose in what you are doing for the sake of God’s kingdom.

And now the third ‘P’. Sometimes we dismiss the important of place. Wendell Berry is quoted as saying something to the effect, “We are a displaced culture but we call it mobility.” Wendell is on to something that seems to be important in Scripture. God gave his Old Testament people a place to call home. Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us (John 14:2).

It is true that from one perspective we are clearly pilgrims, with no place to call home in this world (Hebrews 13:14). But that description is of the foot we have in the ‘New Order’ of reality. The truth is that we still live in the ‘Created Order’ where we need to have a place to call home.

Having a place anchors the soul. My mom’s dad (papaw is what we called him) had 72 acres in East Tennessee which he farmed. He was a poor man in financial terms (his ‘cash crop’ was sweet potatoes!). And he lived his entire life on that piece of property. In some ways it limited him and in other ways it solidified his soul. He knew who he was. He was in touch with his limits and losses. He was grateful of heart.

I don’t live on the farm like he did. After being born in Chattanooga I’ve moved (or been moved by dad and mom) 11 times in my life from Tennessee to Michigan to Texas to Virginia to Illinois to Indiana. But move number 11 brought my wife and me back to Tennessee after 39 years (we lived here the first two years of our marriage). And I can say that there is something grounding about being home.

My prayer is that you have a place to call home, a place that helps you feel grounded, a place that helps give you identity. And I pray that your earthly home will remind you that you are not home. There is a city not made with hands that awaits us.

Even so Lord Jesus, bring us home.

A Response to Charlotteville… a post by Jim

In recent days events in Charlottesville, VA were given great prominence in the news. At least that is what is seems. My wife and I happened to be out of the country at the time with no T.V. and little social media. When we returned, after seeing headlines from things a week earlier, i did my best to catch up. Sincerely wish that I was not confronted with what I read. Very sad. And sinful.

The responses have died down because there are other issues now (e.g. statues). But I felt the desire to give my response even if it is delayed. CrossPoint is committed to fostering relational health at every level. But these comments are mine.

First, racism is a sin. And it finds a home both at an individual and national level. Like all sins, it derails relational connection. Such arrogance and hatred and fear cannot work for the common or individual good of others. There must be both individual and national repentance.

Second, this sin, like all others, requires a relational approach to bring about repentance. An honest relationship with God will compel us to see and know that all bear the image of God. And humble relationships with others of different ethnicity will “open: our eyes to how they deserve to be treated. It wasn’t until the Apostle Peter (who was a racists by any standard) was “in the house” of a Gentile that he “came to see” that God is no respect or of persons. God forced Peter to hang out with the very kind of person Peter looked down on. God used that relationship to change Peter’s heart. This may bring strong disagreement but I am going to say it anyway. Seminars, panels, crusades, marches, sermons focusing on the evil of racism are fine. But, in my opinion, they accomplish FAR less than people being in relationship with someone who is different than they are. We need those things at a corporate level but the evil of racism will ultimately be address at a very particular, personal level.

Third, the particular ways that foster repentance and healing are very practical. We can use the Parable of the Good Samaritan to guide us. That story involved a two ethnicities being confronted at a crime scene. Two Jews by-passed the victim on the other side of the road. Their reasons were embedded in their cultural heritage, their religious dogmas, and, probably, their personal prejudice. But a Samaritan got in the ditch with someone different from him. The point for is this–as we go about our lives, there will be occasions where we will come on a situation that offers us an opportunity to bring healing. Most of us, like the Samaritan, don’t come across evil expressed against a person of another ethnicity every day. But when we do, like the Samaritan, may God give us the grace to step up even if it costs us. Stepping up does not mean getting rid of ethical differences. Peace is not a matter of homogeneity. Shalom flows from anchored identities that respect differences, not from an attempt to ‘flatten’ differences.

The River of ‘Me’…a post by Jim

Rivers are amazing. They can snake their way through a mountainous terrain or flow straight through level land. They can be deep and fast flowing or shallow and slow. Each seems to have its own personality.

Rivers provide a great metaphor (if that is the correct figure of speech) for our souls. We each have a personality that displays itself in various ways depending on the surrounding terrain.

I think of it this way. The river of me has two main contributing streams. There is the stream of my DNA, my wiring displayed in my personality. The second stream is my family of origin. The two streams come together to form the ‘me’ that i am and how I will navigate the terrain of my relationships.

The value of the Enneagram is that it helps identify the DNA God gave me that contributes to my personality. It shows me my strengths and the vulnerabilities that my wiring gives me. Both my strengths and my vulnerabilities can be magnified or diminished by the relational world of my family of origin. The value of a Life Map shows me the effects of those early influences on my personality. A Life Map (where I write the events that I lived, the emotions I felt during those events, and the interpretation I gave to what I felt) helps me see both my wounds and my solidity of soul.

God is honored as we embrace the river of who we are. He uses it to love others well. So let the water of your soul flow freely and deeply, graciously and generously, with receptivity and vulnerability.

Merry Christmas from CrossPoint…a post by Rich

We at CrossPoint Ministry wish you all a very Merry Christmas. In a world polarized by and riddled with fear there is no greater message than of the one who is called “Immanuel” God with us. The Christmas story is magnificent in many ways. The angelic announcement to the shepherds of “good news of great joy,” the noble humility of Mary and her words “let it be to me according to your word,” and Joseph’s dream marked by the angelic voice saying, ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And of course Joseph’s ensuing obedience to what he had heard. The magnificence of the arrival of the one who is “the Son of the Most High” is shrouded in simplicity, obscurity, and poverty.

Christian orthodoxy has for centuries contended that this child in the manger is the Mediator between God and man. He is the Mediator of the created order. All things are created by him, through him and for him. (Col. 1) He is the one in whom “all things hold together.” The very nature of this infant child is the one who creates and sustains all that is! Since the Son of God is the mediator of all creation everything in the created order is structured for relational participation. Nothing exists except through him and for him. Everything that is has his personal touch upon it. As Paul would say, “He is the firstborn over all creation!” God is with us beckoning us in all that is created to see his invitation for connection and communion.

But this God who structures the universe for relational participation seeks personal relational communion for his glory and our good. So the Son of God is born in the fullness of time and will save us from our sin. Sin anchored in mistrust is the great adversary of communion. The Son of God the very outpouring of the love of God comes so that we may each be loved beyond measure and by grace we are given faith to receive life in his name. And this life is eternal life because it is the very life of the Trinitarian God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is with us! He is with us in the depths of our being. His Spirit is permeating our souls ensuring that as sons and daughters of the living God we shall in Christ find the glory of Christmas becoming progressively more and more, “one degree of glory to another” our glory.

So Merry Christmas to you all. Whatever your present lot in life, whether joyful or sad he is doing far more in you than you think or imagine. He is the God who gives gifts that are beyond our comprehension! And so we say, thanks be to God for the Savior of the world, our Savior, has come and is coming.

A Thanksgiving Invitation…by Tom and Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Thanksgiving is upon us and with it comes the requisite gatherings with family and friends, or not. These spaces of holiday gatherings can be either interesting or disinteresting.  The usual suspects arrive and tell the usual stories with the usual chatter.  What could make these interactions different or interesting?  The following poem leads us in a beautiful invitation to have an interesting holiday with whomever we are with and most importantly ourself. 

The Invitation

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.

I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Home is where the heart is…a post by Jim

Home is where the heart is. Sounds encouraging. And it should be. Home should be the place where our souls are safe, encouraged, and loved. Home should be the best place to be.

But there is another way to think of the phrase, “Home is where the heart is.” And it isn’t necessarily good news. Because the state of our home, especially our family of origin when we are young, has a huge impact on where the heart is emotionally. And if the home system is not healthy or holy we will struggle when it comes to how close we can be emotionally.

Here are 8 Family Systems. What was yours and what do you think was its impact on your heart?

The Functional Family

  • Life is essentially defined by your role within the family system.
  • Persons understand their value and significance in terms of the task to perform and the amount of work they accomplish.
  • The experience of connectedness or intimacy is through the relational bonding that occurs in getting tasks done, and surviving against set-backs and obstacles.

The Dramatic Family

  • Life in the dramatic family system is continuously emotionally intense where someone is acting out some form of drama.
  • There is typically a crisis somewhere, and the family is emotionally structured around enduring, navigating, and occasionally resolving the drama. Only to have a new one emerge in due time.
  • The dramatic family is emotionally exhausting to some, while one or two dominant family members will sustain the drama.

The Traumatic Family

  • The traumatized family is one that is defined around surviving traumatic events be they natural disasters or financial devastation or drugs or disease or death or divorce or the adoption of a child with a Reactive Attachment Disorder.
  • Depending on the nature of the trauma such as sexual abuse a child will be adversely affected emotionally and the trajectory of the relational dynamics will also be deeply scared and distorted.
  • Trauma can serve to bring family together in an effort to overcome and strengthen the relational fabric of the family system or cause it to merely survive and maybe even disintegrate.

The Chaotic Family

  • The chaotic family is marked by confusion and the lack of adult leadership and authority and personal boundaries are not respected.
  • The adults in particular have abdicated their role of establishing order and ensuring that family practices such as appropriate grooming, sleep patterns, meal times, school attendance, proper attire etc. are established and maintained.
  • Often times within these family systems children have to fend for themselves and figure out life by themselves or along with peers.

The Moralistic Family

  • The moralistic family is the family focused on keeping the rules.
  • Without the rules the lawgiver is usually very anxious and if the rules are broken the rule-giver becomes angry.
  • The family typically disregards or dismisses what individuals are feelings. Feelings are typically unwelcome because they are unpredictable and messy. Children in this system are often compliant, at least until teen years!

The Authoritative Family

  • The authoritative family is dominated by an enforcer who is in charge and maintains control. The focal point is not primarily a moralistic framework, but the need to control.
  • So the enforcer may control not by issuing commands on right or wrong, but through anger, blaming, or physical force.
  • The enforcer is not bound to consistency, but may be orientated around his or her personal preferences on any given day or in any given circumstance.
  • The emotional atmosphere is unreliable and unpredictable.

Emotionally Entangled Family

  • The emotionally entangled family is marked by parents who use their children for their own sense of emotional stability and strength.
  • The parent(s) will often confide in their child inappropriate information about their marriage, or family problems. Emotionally entangled families often seek a child to be a mediator between parents.
  • The child will often suffer under the demand of being called upon to address adult needs that are beyond their capacity to hold and manage.

The Mature Inter-Dependent Family

  • Each member of the family is recognized as an individual. Family responsibilities are clear and role appropriate. Adults are adults and children are children.
  • Adults assign age appropriate tasks to children and have age appropriate expectations for teaching personal and family responsibilities.
  • Parents maintain authority, sustain clear boundaries, and demonstrate affection toward one another and all family members.
  • Poor choices have consequences and discipline is consistent.
  • Family members rely on each other for love, support, encouragement, and guidance that is role appropriate.
  • Members of the family understand differences between persons and accept differences.
  • Members of the family understand that no one is perfect. Apologies and forgiveness are extended and received.
  • Disagreements and conflicts are worked through to compromise, mutual understanding or a willingness to agree to disagree. But the fundamental relationships of love and support are not threatened or compromised.
  • Individual members are assisted in discovering their giftedness and encouraged to pursue their dreams and desires.

Thankfully, the Gospel is warm and strong enough to handle all of our defenses and dysfunctions. We come to Christ just as we are and, by his Spirit and his Community (the Church) we find forgiveness and healing. When HE is our home our hearts will be in a good place!

The Lord’s Beauty Upon Us…a post by Joy

Psalm 90:17

“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us. Establish Thou the work of our hands; yes, establish the work of our hands. “

This is one of the first things that came to mind this morning when I awakened. Momentarily outside my window was the distinct chirping call of a bird: the red cardinal. I felt that the beauty of the Lord was being brought to me through His colorful creation. During the next hour I was drawn to that window three times with that familiar sound excited to see the beauty that was behind the call. Every time I see a bright red set of feathers gliding across the air in front of me, I am immediately reminded “God is with me”.

I’m amazed at the different kinds of beauty that have been created by God. Animals, people, and nature, all present ways of His imaginative plan of beauty. This can be “plain as day” to us all to see a view of rivers, mountains, valleys, rolling hills and fields. Yet, I’m amazed that in this Scripture passage, “beauty of the Lord” seems to also be connected with Him “establishing the work of our hands.” He doesn’t mention it once. He mentions it twice as a definite affirmation to all of us who are reading it. Why would it be so important for these two things to segue from one statement to the other?

It seems that one possibility could be that the beauty of the presence of the Lord upon us is, indeed, in the work that He has established for our hands. Whatever that may be according to each of our gifts that He has dispersed among us as a body of believers.

The bright red cardinal is doing what he was “established” or created to do. Sing, fly, and remind me that “…the beauty of the Lord our God is upon us.”

The New International Version translates this verse as: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us…

Escaping the Matrix…a post by Jim

 

God created us to be a complex mix of biology and experience. We are embodied souls who have minds that inevitably draw us into relationships. Gregory Boyd calls this complex interface a matrix (Escaping the Matrix). He explains what he means by saying, biologically, we are given billions of neurons that connect via trillions of neuro synapsis. We are also given the manner by which the brain is constructed to function (e.g. neurons firing together wire together). God created us this way and it is “very good” (and incredibly complex!).

Now what gets registered in our God-given neuro structures occurs within and through our relational experience with our world and particularly with other persons. The most primitive structuring of the neuro system is organized emotionally around experiences. It is the foundation for our earliest representation of ourselves and others and our outside world (i.e. how I see me, how I see you, how I see you seeing me). This takes place in and through our relationships be they safe (which leads to trust) or unsafe (which leads to mistrust).

Through our primitive emotional experiences and representations structured in early neuro mapping we are also learning, within this early mapping, our relational strategies of engaging others (i.e. primary attachment patterns). Our earliest neuro mapping is prior to the development of conscious cognitive self-reflection. It relies on our emotional experiences within our key relationships and becomes our ‘script’ for how we do relationships.

Because the nature of neurological mapping within our emergent self is so profoundly influenced by our emotional experience, to expect mere cognitive notions to be the fundamental means of transformation is ‘misguided’ (in light of God’s foundational created order of the human soul). So when we think about transformation we are entering the world of memory and imagination and emotion. There simply must be a new and better ‘order’ of things that captures our souls with its astounding beauty. And we must have experiences that re-order the false representations that we have inevitably developed in a fallen world.

This is where the Gospel story of God pursuing and drawing us to himself in Christ becomes crucial for change. IN Christ a ‘new’ order has come, changing the distorted reality of the fallen (created) order of things. IN Christ we can escape the old matrix of mistrust and distorted representations (e.g. of what ‘father’ means to us if we had a difficult dad). IN Christ we are introduced to the true reality of God being FOR us. IN Christ we find ourselves in the new community of faith that re-presents our deepest images of what it means to be loved and valued.

Let the Gospels Define Us…a post by Rich

 

A recent discussion with a pastor led to us considering the question, what do the gospel writers emphasize as the message of Jesus? Did the gospel writers emphasize that Jesus brought a message about life or was it about sin. Our perspective at CrossPoint is that the gospel writers believed that Jesus in inaugurating and establishing the new creation through his life, death, resurrection and ascension was bringing a message of life. Perhaps John is most explicit when he records these words of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Jn. 11:25-26 (Jn.3:17,4:13,5:24,6:27,7:38,8:34,10:27-30).

It is true the cross of Christ is Jesus addressing through his substitutionary death our enslavement to sin and God the Father’s judgement of our sin. The truth is all who believe in Jesus are now justified by faith and made children of God. (Rom. 5, Gal. 4) As a result the believer’s life is now hidden in Christ with God (Col.3:3, see also Rom. 6). We can never be separated from the love of God in Christ. (Rom. 8). Our primary attention is now to love God with our whole heart. For some their understanding of loving God has turned into a preoccupation with sin and the naming and repenting of idols. The pastor mentioned above came to realize in light of his preoccupation with sin and repentance that over time he developed a critical and judgmental spirit and was only experiencing more and more anxiety. Inordinate self-preoccupation especially if it is about sin will always prove over time to morph into severe soul-sickness.

We believe at CrossPoint our attention should be on gratitude and joy for the gift of participatory communion in the life of the Trinitarian God, which is eternal life. We believe that if we pursue with all our hearts what is true, good and beautiful God’s Spirit will make clear to us the sin in need of repentance. We see our self most clearly by seeing ourselves more fully in Christ. Our heart’s attention is on our love of the Trinitarian God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In fact, a lover of God will make regular times for confession of sin. But our liturgy does not end with confession of sin and endless idol hunting but with the assurance of pardon, which reminds us we are free to love our Lord and neighbor as best we can. The gospel of Christ is liberating and so sets our hearts on a spiritual journey of thanksgiving, praise, joy and wonder at the fullness of God’s goodness to us in Christ. Yes we live in a world that has lost consciousness of sin, but are we to have our life in Christ defined by the deficiencies of a secularized age or by the words of life and hope in the Gospel? We at CrossPoint say we allow the Gospels to define who we are.

Laughter, Laughter, Laughter…a post by Tom

Do you want to know what goes on in the heart of the Trinity?
  I will tell you.
  In the heart of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son.
  The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit.  The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.

When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs back at God, the persons of the Trinity are begotten.   
When the Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, 
that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and that is the Holy Spirit.

-Meister Eckhart